Congregation Renovates Church For Comfort, Accessibility

June 19, 1991|By Amy L. Miller | Amy L. Miller,Staff writer

WESTMINSTER — A church is more than a building; it's the people, say members of Westminster Church of the Brethren.

"While the building is the placewhere the worship service takes place, the church itself is actuallythe people," said Julie Hitchcock, a member for more than 30 years.

The Rev. Paul L. Groff and congregation members conducted a dedication service Sunday honoring those involved in the renovations.

Church renovations included installing air conditioning in the sanctuary, adding an elevator to make the building accessible to

the disabled and relocating the day care center.

"We geared everything to making facilities available to as many people as possible," said Groff. "This is our attempt to show that we do care about people and makeit possible for them to worship with us."

The renovations, designed by Dean R. Camlin of Melvin A. Arbaugh Architect Inc., began last July and took about 10 months to complete, said Emma Jean Woodard, church secretary.

Plans for the $320,000 renovation -- phase two of the building restoration -- began about six years ago when members decided the church should be accessible to the disabled.

The structure, which houses a daily day care program and church offices, is usedby several community organizations for weekly meetings, said CarrollDell, a member of the committee that guided the project.

"There are all kinds of other organizations that use the building continuously," Dell said, adding that other churches sometimes sponsor seminars in Westminster Church of the Brethren's facility. Access for the disabled -- by way of an elevator on the east side of the church -- also will benefit elderly parishioners, Dell said.

"It was embarrassingfor people to be carried up the stairs," said Dell. "The ushers never minded, but the people were embarrassed. It just seemed like the Christian thing to do."

Air conditioning, too, will be a boon, said Hitchcock.

"Air conditioning in the sanctuary means a lot in the hot weather," she said.

Members will also enjoy incidental benefitsfrom the elevator's addition, said Al Beaver, chairman of the oversight committee.

Adding the elevator shaft would have reduced the day care center's square footage below state standards, he said. Walls had to be knocked down and hallways rebuilt to bring the footage up to acceptable levels, resulting in a larger fellowship area in the library.

"In the library, we now have a place where we can have before-church coffee or after-church conversation," Beaver said.

The choir also benefited, gaining new areas to store music and equipment and one of the newer pianos to practice with.

Although the church has received money from bequests and other sizable contributions -- enough to pay $50,000 for the air conditioning -- donations still will be gathered over a three-year period.

However, members do not anticipate a problem with gathering the remaining money.

"Everyone has their different interests, and everyone is real pleased with what we did," said Dell. "When you like a project, you don't mind paying for it."

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